Peter Kwok (BEng Materials Science & Engineering 2007) is the Chairman and Founder of the UK Federation of Chinese Professionals.
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Peter led the founding of the Global Diaspora Coalition with the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) to bring together diaspora organisations from around the world to combat COVID-19. He also set up a global team of 400 to lead the second national virtual support centre in Cameroon after establishing the first in the UK, endeavouring to reach out to and safeguard vulnerable communities locally and globally.
Peter previously advised the Scottish Government, local councils, universities and SMEs on diaspora strategies. He is a leading advocate for Chinese professionals in the UK at the World Overseas Professional Associations' Chairpersons Conferences by the Chinese State Council. Besides running his gemstone jewellery business after graduating from Royal School of Mines, Peter also supports as chair at a number of leading diaspora associations in the UK, China and Africa. He received the Alumni Award for Excellent Achievement from Cranfield University in 2019 and the Freedom of the City of Glasgow in 2020.
What extra-curricular Imperial activities you have achieved that led to your current career?
My passion for social innovation actually began in my first year at Imperial. I joined the IC Student Industrial Society (SIS) managed by CRAC as Events Manager to organise corporate presentations, career fairs and Imperial teams for national competitions. I entered the world of recruitment and learnt directly from working with leading HR managers of Global 500 companies.
In my second year, I was elected President to restructure SIS, expanded our team from 6 to 30, membership from 250 to over 2000, and corporate partners from 5 to 40 within 9 months. When Global Management Challenge UK was launched in 2007, we recruited and secured sponsorship for over 130 Imperial students as their London & South East organiser. We also became Imperial's official organiser for IBM Universities Business Challenge and put forward a number of sponsored teams. SIS UK was the country's largest network of student-led, career-focused university societies with 8,000 members at more than 30 universities. In my third year, it was taken over by Bright Futures Society and I helped the national body with its transition and re-branding of all societies while judging for the Institute of Student Employers Award.
My years at Imperial had been life-changing, I spent about 20 hours a day split between academic and society's work. It remains one of the best parts of my life because without knowing it at that time, I found what I enjoyed pursuing and thanks to the kindest support from my wonderful team of friends, I am still loving what I do today.
During my time at Imperial, apart from a summer internship, I also enjoyed assisting in UROP projects at the Departments of EEE and of Chemistry for Professor Anthony Kucernak; being highly commended by Imperial's New Business Challenge when the concept of bubble tea was mostly unheard of in the UK; and going to my favourite Blyth Centre to play my music before occasionally getting told off for not booking a slot!
Who at Imperial inspired you and why?
My Imperial inspirers are Professor Rees Rawlings, former Pro-Rector and my lifelong mentor who enlightened me on being a better person; Professor Robin Grimes, my personal and admission tutor who gave me the chance and taught me 'it ain’t over till the last person sings'; Sir Richard Sykes, rector at my time who transformed Imperial with his entrepreneurial examples; Sir Peter Gregson, my predecessor from the Department of Materials who is truly inspiring as he currently leads Cranfield University, the alma mater I went to after Imperial; and not to mention my father (MSc Transport Studies 1996) who has always been my role model.
Would you tell us a bit about the work you're doing now?
I lead the UK Federation of Chinese Professionals (UKFCP), a national community organisation that aims to unite, support, develop and promote global Chinese professionals in the UK. My role is to think ahead for our community, improve professionals' wellbeing, and leverage their skills to pioneer economic and charitable initiatives for the benefit of our society.
Please tell us about your role in supporting the fight against COVID-19 and how has what you learnt at Imperial helped you?
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to mobilise a large number of volunteers and resources to tackle immediate challenges voiced by vulnerable communities. Merely in the UK, we are already progressing 30 community projects. My experience at Imperial has really helped me to be resilient at this challenging time, especially as I often needed to work until sunrise.
Due to the misinformation and information overload in the world, I initiated to close more communication gaps between vulnerable communities and information providers. Hence, being meticulous was key to ensure positive dialogues are exchanged when I liaised with governments and public organisations. Thankfully, in our Imperial degrees, we were trained to reason.
Some of our Imperial alumni have been crucial to our work in combating COVID-19. May I take this opportunity to thank them: Samuel Chan (MSc Aeronautical Engineering 2013) – UKFCP National Support Centre Leader; Dr Justin Garner (BSc 2006, MBBS 2008) – Consultant for Chelsea and COVID-19 Wards at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and UKFCP Medical Advisor; Dr Kit Wu (PhD 2015) – Consultant at NHS England on recovering work from COVID-19 and UKFCP Medical Advisor.
While we are looking for more help to our support centre, we are equally thankful if our alumni also consider advertising career opportunities or sharing collaborative ideas on Imperial Plexus. I registered on Plexus for Chair of the BMA Representative Body Dr Helena McKeown's Q&A session to ask about national allocation of volunteers for our support centre and she has been most helpful. Thank you.
How is COVID-19 impacting Chinese professionals in the UK and internationally?
The global culture of professional engagement is moving virtual and has been accelerated by COVID-19. As the COVID-19 outbreak worsens, it has impacted the global economy significantly. An effective solution could be strengthening global collaborations transparently. If we remember how wholeheartedly we support each other to get through the pandemic and apply such 'think for others' attitude to business collaborations, we can recover our economy sooner. We are already seeing this happening in global healthcare collaboration.
What would be your advice for current students?
Widen your angle to a problem by making the best of every learning opportunity, especially the one where you feel most useless, be curious and be generous.
Do you have a favourite quote or saying?
Imagination is more important than knowledge while imagination without knowledge is nothing. You can create both knowledge and imagination at Imperial.